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Our group has a launch date on Westwater of Friday 06/03. The flows are looking to be above 20,000 and many on our trip have little to no experience on the river. We're rafting it with an experienced guide, but a less experienced oars-man for the supply raft... maybe a kayaker in the water as well. Are there any of you out there who could offer some advice, words of wisdom or suggestions? Any help would be nice... also, what about bringing a dog? Would it be tough to get her out of the water if a raft dumps?

Thanks!
 

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Just remember that things start to get really fast. Westwater flushes out at that level but its big and fast. If you dump a boat than everyone needs to be able to react faster. Anyone/dog swimming is not good could be a mile or two till your able to get out. You need a good safety kayker to not have a long swim. I take my dog on almost all my river trips but when it picks up he stays with friends. Don't want to lost my baby. Anyway good luck, have fun, and just be safe. YJ
 

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it's hard to pull a wet dog out of the water, esp in the canyon itself. We put a PFD on our dog; it has a handle on top so we can pull him out if necessary. But if you flip a raft, the dog will be the least of your worries.
 

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Eddylines are the real problem at the higher levels, a couple are particularly vicious, and the one just left of the Rock of Shock (Skull) is one of the scariest things I've ever seen. I would rather take my chances with Paralyzer on Lake Creek than get into that eddyline.

A not-very-experienced oarsman running baggage could be a real problem, all depends on if he/she flips or not. I don't know if Hawaii Five-O is still there at 20K, but that is a must-make move for rafts (just a 90 degree pivot, but you gotta do it or you're counting fish). At that level, rafts should have a solid person on the oars and kayakers should be comfortable in class IV big water or at least be certain they aren't going to swim in that kind of rapid or they could swim a very long way. If you get into the eddylines, rolling may take some patience as well. Everyone not certain of their skill should dress for a long swim. Rafts should not even think about scouting Skull or you will never get to the right to set up and make your line.

All that said, Westy in the five figures is great fun. You will have a blast. Oh, and the best part is that the flatwater moves right along, no endless rowing and paddling - yeah baby!

Ditto on the dog PFD. A dog could drown at that level easily. Better yet, leave the dog at home -- the parking lot is a bad place for them and I've heard many a story from the rangers about dogs knocking over the water bowl right after people leave the takeout to shuttle. Actually, now that I think about it, there was a thread about dogs at WW recently - I'm not sure you can even take them down anymore.
 

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Remember- just because you paid for a permit for Westwater doesn't mean you have to get in over your head for $8 per person. Although there aren't any rapids to speak of, Ruby / Horsethief is a beautiful trip and the camping is outstanding. Plus the flat sections move along very quickly over 10K. You can call Carol at the Westwater permit office and switch your trip to a later launch date, if they're available- a lot of people don't realize that's an option....
 

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does anybody have any photos of skull at high levels? it is such a sweet looking rapid though somewhat illusive, not many people get the chance to stop and take a good look at that mother. hook up some photos
 

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WW

Everybody in your party should be in full neoprene, bootys, with spray tops and bottoms if not dry tops and bottoms before you enter Marble Canyon.
Beware of the shore lines as serious holes form from large rock fall that is usually exposed at lowere levels.
Consider running Dewey Bridge to Big Bend down stream if you're not ready.
That way you can have dinner at the brewpub and you'll still have a good chance to flip with fewer consequences.
 

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Holes?

Are there any particularly nasty holes above 20k? I'm going the 31st and will have experienced raft guides and some people with little experience.

Justin
 

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Caspian,

When you say the eddy lines are dangerous, you mean they create the sucking wirlpools that pull you under? I've seen a few small ones that do that, but are these powerful enough to pull you under for an extended period? Won't you pop up after 10-20 seconds? I guess that can be real frightening for someone inexperienced.

Thanks.
 

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The Room of Doom eddy will be brutal at this level. Please don't bring the dog. If you ending up dumping on Skull and the dog went into Room of Doom, that could be it.......
 

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At 14,500 cfs I chased a swimmer in a pfd from Marble to Skull- I saw him get sucked under by eddy lines about 10 times. It's a serious risk if a swimmer gets away from a raft / throw ropes. If you decide to go, be prepared to swim in cold water for an extended time. At 25,000, I would highly recommend leaving the dog at home unless he has gills. You can't throw a dog a rope from a moving raft and get him/her back in the boat.

Again- if you're not prepared for this kind of trip, go do Ruby / Horsethief. I've rafted Westwater 40+ times, up to about 14K, and I would not row at this level- too much risk to my gear & my passengers. I'd kayak it instead on a 1-day...
 

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cstork - There are lots and lots of squirlies at big water, as you know noted. I would agree that most are more likely to sub a kayak for a few seconds, not pose a real danger to someone in a boat. These are the one that I know secondhand can be deadly to a dog.

In the narrower places, though, I think there is danger for a swimmer to be under for more than 20 seconds. Just how long is anyone's guess. But like you said, five seconds will seem like an eternity to someone inexperienced in whitewater and esp. with whirlpools. Skull comes to mind because the right side eddyline is so violent and so powerful. I have been told by the rangers that the river immedately below Skull Rock has been plumbed to at least 200 feet deep. Sounds a little crazy, but I believe it - lots of water, soft rock. So take the current flow of 26K and push it though that narrow section -I bet the whirlpools go down a long long way.

I would tell any marginally experienced people in my group to hold on for the ride and that most whirlpools will spit you out after 10-20 seconds, though. And I'd tell them to hold onto that PFD if they go down. Jimi Snyder tells a story about getting on the eddyline behind the cheesegrater rock in Lava Falls. He said it ripped off his boat, PFD, and helmet. ugh!
 

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It looks like there's some good advice in this thread...

I have to say that I've never boated WW above 10K, only swam it at that level and been given a preview of what it must be like at higher flows. There are stories of rafts being flipped on the eddy lines at big water. Last month at only about 8K I saw a competent kayaker buddy with a solid roll flipped and then swim on the Little D eddy line because the currents kept him from being able to roll back up.

When I swam WW at 10K I remember being held under, despite a Type V PFD (like the commercial rafters wear) for long periods, spun in vortices enough that centrifugal force pulled my arms out & watching the light get brighter and then dimmer as I came near the suface and then was pulled back under. There were other swimmers from the flip who puked water and were quite traumatized by the experience of being held under for such a long time. All had Type V PFDs which provide 25 lbs floatation.

My impression of WW at high flow is akin to an irregular, rock-lined culvert with a huge amount of water flushing violently through it very fast. The irregularities cause many whirlpools and vortices. I can easily imagine that one could get pulled under by a whirlpool, spit out at the bottom, and swept down to the next whirlpool and the process repeated without surfacing for air leading to flush drowning. Also remember that in the very fast moving water, rescuing a swimmer can temporarily divert an oarsman or kayaker's attention from hazards ahead and lead to cascading - more flips & swimmers from a blown rescue attempt.

Wetsuits & booties would have made a difference for folks as the cold water added to trauma but its hard to alleviate the feeling when you've been under a long time and think you're going to drown. The most traumatized were those least experienced with the power of moving water; fortunately most were in their 20s or early 30s and relatively fit.

Be safe, remember that you have a responsibility to inexperienced people you're bringing along, and don't feel embarrassed or ashamed about cancelling your high-water trip and crediting your permit fee to a later trip.

--Andy
 

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Thanks Andy. Good advice.

But, if things are really that bad, how come there aren't more flush drownings on Westwater?

I'm planning on bringing my wife and kid on a Westwater trip on July 8, and the level may be 8000+. So, I'm concerned.
 

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cstork said:
But, if things are really that bad, how come there aren't more flush drownings on Westwater?
I would guess that it's b/c the high flow is relatively short-lived. A lot of folks probably stay away from it at peak flows, just like many other rivers.

At 8000, the eddylines aren't as bad as at the current levels. The catch is that many people feel the hole at Skull is at its worst at 8000. But Razor Rock is covered, so the line you're on is more open, which is nice, because that thar hole is big.

Cool that you're taking the family, and thinking about how they can enjoy the trip best.
 

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Is it really that bad?

I have a permit this weekend and we've got a few 14' rafts with experienced oarsmen and a couple of safety kayakers. I was feeling confident about the trip until I kept reading the messages on this post. Now people in my group are dropping out of the trip like flies. Has anyone out there actually rowed it at this level (approx 25,000)?
 

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I've done it about 20K and 30K. 30K is a gripping experience and enough to make me not want to do it again at that level. Once you get below Little D its an out-of-control train ride. The hydraulics are heavy and theres no eddies except very small ones - tough to catch. In the "Bowling Alley" below Funnel the hydraulics are heavy enough to stop your boat and pull the tubes under - its kind of nerve wracking. The wave coming off Shock Rock at Skull is enormous - you definitely want to stay left of it but theres a wave coming off the left side of skull about where Razor Rock is - you need to avoid it first. Wetsuits, dry suits, spray wear and high-float PFD's are all a must. But at least you won't have to worry about the flat water below Last Chance. :wink:
 

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max flow this date

Did anybody else notice that the max flow for Westwater on 5/25 in the past 54 years was 64,200!
 

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Our 1st permit for Westwater was in 96 or 97,my buddy Kevin and I show up with only the Dolores Slickrock ,gunny gorge low,the Blue,Deckers and Clear crk. thru I-SPGS. and maybe waterton on our resumes,he had rafted it as a kid and we had camped and cliff jumped out there so we thought we were good to go .We show up to ducky it at 37,000 cfs!The ranger said we could go ,but strongly recommended we didn't as we'd likely swim the whole thing if we flipped.He recommended we do the Hittle Bottom run about 10 miles below the takeout .This run is normally I-III- ,open canoeable,but after it picked up the Dolores it was ragin' over 40 k.It is by far the biggest water I've ever done,and some of the scariest,not technical but giant haystacks,1/4 to 1/2 mile long wave trains very powerful eddy lines /fences and boils all over the place, i was scared shitless the whole time praying not to swim,and i aint religious.A raft guide from Moab I met recently told me his co. runs this when westy's over 25 k and flushed out says it's safer and more fun at that level.Also the Utah guide book says Cloudburst rapid forms a big sur type wave at high flows,and this run has low water play spots a long season ,no permit.Consider it if Westy is too high.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Cayo,

Where is the section you're talking about? You say that it's 10 miles below Westwater... where is the take out? How long is it?
 
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